Public Health Impacts of Gambling

Gambling involves risking something of value on an activity that is primarily based on chance in the hope of realizing a profit. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history and is often incorporated into customs and rites of passage.

While most people gamble responsibly, a significant percentage of individuals develop gambling disorders and incur debts that impair their ability to function in daily life. Some of these individuals die as a result of their gambling addiction. The negative personal, family and economic consequences of this disorder are well documented.

Other research has also found that some gambling activities may have positive social and community impacts. These benefits are derived from gambling revenues and the employment opportunities created by casinos. Other benefits include an increase in the number of local businesses, the provision of a range of social services and recreational activities, and reduced criminal activity.

The social costs and benefits of gambling are generally difficult to quantify, particularly because they are invisible to the individual. In a public health approach, these costs and benefits can be assessed using health-related quality of life weights (HRQL).

There are two types of gambling impacts: internal and external. Internal impacts are personal and concern gamblers themselves. External impacts are at the interpersonal and society/community levels and affect those who are not gamblers. These impacts are usually monetary in nature and include general costs/benefits, costs related to problem gambling and long-term cost/benefits.